Common Side Effects
HBOT’s most commonly reported side effect is trauma to the ears and sinuses caused by changes in pressure. It’s important to understand that this effect is only temporary and resolves itself after exiting the chamber following treatment. While decongestants may be helpful for some, most individuals respond well to frequent swallowing and chewing gum during (de-)pressurization to mitigate the effect. Our dive guides will teach you auto-inflationary techniques to promote adequate clearing of the ears during treatment to prevent any discomfort associated with this side effect.
Less Common Side Effects
While other side effects of HBOT are far less common, we want our guests to be aware of them, including those below:
Pulmonary Oxygen Toxicity may occur in those requiring supplemental oxygen between treatments.
Claustrophobia, while widely recognized in both pop culture and medical contexts, affects a minor percentage of the population. The condition can managed by maintaining communication (via walkie-talkies, which are provided to all our guests), and practicing relaxation techniques during treatment. If you suffer from claustrophobia, please let us know so that we can make your dive as comfortable as possible.
In very rare cases, individuals who use the chamber extremely frequently may develop temporary changes in eyesight. These minor changes usually disappear within 20 minutes after a session to eight weeks following the end of treatments.
Patients with cataracts may experience accelerated maturation of their cataract. However, the treatment itself does not cause cataract formation.
A Word of Caution
We’ve included some notes below for guests with the following pre-existing conditions or prescribed medications. If you have any concerns, we advise you to speak with your prescribing doctor or ask one of our dive guides to help direct you to more information.
Asthma: Small airway hyper-reactivity may result in air trapping and damage to the lungs while the chamber is de-pressurizing. There is some evidence that administering bronchodilators may increase the incidence of gas embolism to the brain through pulmonary vasodilation.
Congenital Spherocytosis: For those individuals with fragile red blood cells, treatment may result in massive hemolysis.
Emphysema with CO2 retention: Patients with emphysema may become apnoeic (have difficulty breathing) in the chamber and require emergency care. In addition, gas trapping and subsequent lung rupture can occur. This is also true for any condition that is associated with bullous formation in the lungs. Therefore, we caution strongly against use of high pressurization or high oxygen concentration.
High fevers: Fevers above 38.5ºC (around 101-102ºF ) tend to lower seizure threshold due to O2 toxicity and may result in the delay of relatively routine therapy. If we decide to proceed with treatment, we would attempt to lower your temperature with antipyretics (such as aspirin or acetaminophen) and physical measures. We generally caution against dives when guests have high fevers.
History of middle-ear surgery or disorders: Please notify us of any ear problems, past or present. Guests who are unable to clear their ears risk further injury.
History of seizures: As HBOT may lower the seizure threshold, some advocate increasing the baseline medication for such certain individuals who suffer from seizures.
Optic Neuritis: Those with a history of optic neuritis have reported failing sight and even blindness after receiving HBOT. Though extremely rare, this outcome would indeed be tragic.
Pneumothorax: A pocket of trapped gas in the pleura will decrease in volume on compression and re-expand on surfacing during an HBOT session. These changes may result in further lung damage or arterial gas embolization. Communication between lung and pneumothorax with a tension component presents a potentially dangerous situation as the pressure is lowered. As Boyle’s Law predicts, a 1.8 liter pneumothorax at 20 msw could become a life-threatening 6 liter pneumothorax at sea level. For this reason, it is mandatory to have a chest tube in place to relieve a pneumothorax before considering HBOT.
Chest trauma or thoracic surgery: Please let us know if you have a history.
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: These are relative contraindications due to the difficulty such individuals may have in clearing their ears and sinuses. It may be best in such cases to postpone treatment for a few days.
Viral Infections: While there may be concern that viral infections could worsen considerably after HBOT, no studies have shown convincing evidence of this nor of activation of herpetic lesions. On the contrary, some believe HBOT to be helpful in eliminating viral infections.
Cisplatinum: There is some evidence that this medication actually slows wound healing when combined with HBOT.
Disulphiram (Antabuse): There is evidence to suggest that this drug blocks the production of superoxide dismutase, which may severely affect the body’s ability to neutralize oxygen-free radicals. Experimental evidence suggests that a single HBOT dive is safe; however, subsequent treatments may not be advised.
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin): This chemotherapeutic agent becomes increasingly toxic under pressure. Animal studies suggest at least a one-week break between the last dose and first treatment of HBOT.